Category Archives: Writing

A Perfect Stone: Listed in Best New Greek Civil War Books to Read in 2020

I’m very excited that A Perfect Stone was selected as one out of eight top reads about the Greek Civil War for 2020 by Book Authority. You can check out the article here : https://bookauthority.org/books/new-greek-civil-war-books

A Perfect Stone is an historical fiction story about a boy’s journey across the mountains to escape the civil war. It’s available at many online bookstores including Amazon

Book Review: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

 

Pic from Goodreads


This character driven novel broodily unpacks the drama of a family over five decades.

Right after WW2, Cyril Conroy buys a run-down mansion as surprise for his wife, Elna. With their daughter Maeve, they move into the house which is still filled with the previous family’s abandoned belongings. Elna is uncomfortable and unhappy with the ostentatiousness of her new surroundings and Cyril brings in servants to help in the mistaken belief that this will make his wife happy. Elna has a son Danny, ten years after Maeve and she continues to be restless disappearing for days when finally, when Danny is three, she inexplicably abandons her family and disappears for good.

Danny is the unreliable narrator of this story. He tries to make sense of his past as well as his present. He remembers little of his mother and his father is remote. He relies on the servants and his older sister for his care. When his father marries Andrea, two more children are brought into the house. Life becomes more difficult for Danny and his sister when it’s clear that Andrea is a reluctant step-mother. When his father dies, Andrea throws fifteen-year-old Danny and her sister out to look after themselves.

The thing about an unreliable narrator like Danny is that he is on the periphery of the family story. As an adult, he is almost clueless about the women of this family, including his wife, struggling to understand how they think and why. Yet his clingy possessiveness of his sister (mother substitute) affects him for life.

Is your childhood home as central to who you are? In this case it’s pivotal. The Dutch House is a symbol for what was good and bad in the brother and sisters’ lives.

I found it interesting that Danny wanted so much to be like his father. A father who became rich without his wife knowing, who bought her The Dutch House as a romantic and generous gesture not knowing his wife hated it.

‘God’s truth,’ Maeve said. ‘Our father was a man who had never met his own wife.’

Danny falls into the trap himself with his own wife and history repeats itself except that he eventually comes to realise it. His reliance on his sister was interesting and almost stifling. And although we learn a lot about Maeve through his eyes, there’s a lot we don’t know. We never know if Maeve had romantic interests or friends and I wonder if the closeness Danny had for her was not as close as it could have been.

The same can be said of the step-mother painted as evil and money hungry who loved the house, yet she is as mysterious to brother and sister and reader alike.

It’s a modern-day Cinderella story up to a point and the love between the siblings is intense and tender. I love Patchett’s writing style, easy to read, yet beautifully crafted. It’s a slow burn of a story, so take your time and enjoy it.

 

 

Today, I’m featuring a guest post by Melbourne-based author AJ Collins, whose first book, a crossover YA/adult novel, Oleanders Are Poisonous, has just been released. A recipient of first prize and several commendations for the Monash WordFest awards, AJ has been published in various short story anthologies and magazines, and was awarded a place at […]

via Celebrating new books in troublesome times 3: AJ Collins — Feathers of the Firebird

Special Offer for A Perfect Stone

 

A special offer for A Perfect Stone on Kindle, only for a short time and only on Amazon. To take advantage of this massive discount on price, grab it now on Amazon

What’s it about?

Living alone, eighty-year-old Jim Philips potters in his garden feeding his magpies. He doesn’t think much of his nosy neighbours and dislikes telemarketers intensely. All he wants to do is live in peace.

Cleaning out a box belonging to his late wife, he finds something which triggers the memories of a childhood he’s hidden, not just from his overprotective middle-aged daughter, Helen, but from himself. When Jim has a stroke, Helen is shocked to find out her father is not who she thinks he is.

Jim’s suppressed memories surface in the most unimaginable way when he finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

What are readers saying?

Goodreads

FIVE STARS FOR A PERFECT STONE

“This is a fictional story but based on actual events, and the author wastes not a word in evoking sympathy for those most vulnerable members of society, without ever becoming maudlin.” Helen Hollick (Discovering Diamonds – shortlisted for book of the month July 19)

 ‘It is a story of loss and survival interspersed with the history of a war I knew little about. Highly recommended.’ Elise

“A Perfect Stone” is a vivid and engaging novel that brims with believable characters and a great deal of observational wisdom.” Clare

 ‘It brought me to tears in more than one passage,” Stephanie

“The story of young children – their exhaustion, hunger and ultimate survival is riveting. It makes me think differently about my neighbours – eastern European, Asian – of where they’ve come from and what they may have endured to get here.
I loved the writing and the fastidious research and simply couldn’t put it down.” Meredith

“I was thoroughly immersed and couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.” Eugene

“A fictional story drawn from real experiences, Dimitri/Jim become stand ins for all children throughout history forced from their homes in time of war and destined never to be reunited with their birth families.” Chris 

Movie Review: Military Wives

Military Wives, inspired by true events was directed by Peter Cattaneo, famed for the film, The Full Monty.

Two women, Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Lisa (Sharon Horgan) are from very different backgrounds with very different views. Kate has lived the life of a military wife for years, is conservative and toes the military line. Lisa on the other hand is relaxed, drinks and likes to have fun with the other wives. With the promotion of her husband, Lisa is forced to undertake a leadership role with Kate, to come up with ideas to occupy everyone while their partners go to Afghanistan for six months. The two disagree about everything and when they start a choir with a group of women with varying singing ability, things get very interesting with very funny results.

But it’s not all humour. The anxiety of worrying about their husbands and partners and wondering who will come back, is well done. It is a well-trodden formula and fairly predictable but what seemed different to me was how deeply moving it was.

What might be commonly known in Britain but little known elsewhere is that there was an initial Military Wives Choir who gained fame in 2011 with a hit song which inspired 75 other military wives’ choirs around the world.

The music is wonderful and while it’s not likely to win any Oscars, it’s a feel-good film. Oh, and a word of warning for some of you … perhaps pack the tissues.

Out in Australia on wide release mid March 2020.

Movie Review: The Professor and the Madman

Most of us have or have had an Oxford English Dictionary.  The Professor and the Madman relays the fascinating story about how the Oxford Dictionary came to be compiled during the mid-nineteenth century.

Professor James Murray, (played by Mel Gibson) is tasked with the enormous job to edit the floundering English dictionary begun by Oxford University’s Fredrick Furnivall (played by Steve Coogan). Murray is given seven years and seeks help from the public across the Commonwealth by placing notes inside books requesting help with words and their origins.

William Minor, (played by Sean Penn) an ex-soldier having been a surgeon in the American Civil War is in a psychiatrist hospital in England. He’s there because he killed a man who he believed was someone haunting him from his days in the war. He receives a book and rises to the task to provide help to Murray by providing over 10,000 entries.

Because Minor helped save a guard’s life, he is allowed privileges one of which is bringing his books into the Institution. His brilliant mind is astonishing even to Murray who fights hard to get Minor’s work acknowledged against vast opposition by the University. Minor tries to make amends with the murdered man’s wife who is left with six children and a relationship of forgiveness evolves.

Based on fact it is an incredible story of two brilliant minds coming together to accomplish a monumental task in a short amount of time. In further research I found the dictionary actually took seventy years to compile. Astonishing.

Mel Gibson bought the rights to the book, The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester in 1998 and the film was caught up in legal battles over creative differences.

The way mental health was dealt with in the 1800’s was hair raising and was covered very well in the film. Sean Penn was amazing as the anguished and haunted Minor.

The only difficulty I had was in the Scottish accents by Gibson, which was incredibly authentic but so much so that it was hard to understand some of the dialogue. Likewise, I found the same for Penn. This could well have been the quality of the sound in the movie theatre I visited rather than the quality of the sound of the film. Nevertheless, it wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t know what was going on.

It’s a very enjoyable movie and I learnt a lot. For all of you word lovers, check it out and for everyone see it anyway. It opens Feb 20 in Australia.

Writing is Hard!

Writers know what I mean. Writing is hard! It’s about finding the story and getting it down in a coherent way. It’s about editing, rewriting, deleting, and thinking and mulling and… I could go on. Wait! I already have.

But it’s also about finding the sweet spot of the story, the joy of a beautiful sentence, of falling in love with the characters, nurturing and cajoling them along and the sadness of leaving them when it comes to the end. It’s all consuming, night and day in your head until it’s time to let it go. Out into the world for others to see, to judge, to like or not.

I’ve been writing my next book for the last eighteen months, pushing it along slowly and methodically at times, researching and looking for the story. The draft is done and there are two stories not one. Parts of it have been rewritten at least three times so far.

Rewriting is not new to me. My first novel was rewritten at least twenty times, my second perhaps ten or more times. I enjoy the editing and rewriting process as I mould the book from rough diamond to something polished and a joy to read (I hope).

Someone said to me yesterday. “Surely it’s easier by now.”  I raised my eyebrows. It’s not easier. Should it be? For me it’s not.  And neither will the next one and the next one after that. There’s no easy shortcut. It doesn’t get done by any other way than sitting/standing in front of a keyboard or notebook or Dictaphone and just writing.

Writing is just plain, hard work!